Seán Quinn's freedom hangs in the balance


BANKRUPT BUSINESSMAN Seán Quinn will learn this morning whether he will be jailed over contempt of court orders preventing the stripping of assets from his family’s international property group.

Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, claimed yesterday Mr Quinn had failed to purge his contempt and said it believed Quinn family members continued to direct steps to prevent it recovering assets for the Irish taxpayer.

The bank had been “continuously and unlawfully” frustrated by the Quinns or their agents, was involved in litigation in 10 countries and considered it could not recover assets acting alone, so it had engaged A1, an asset-recovery specialist company in Russia to help, it said.

In an impassioned plea to Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne not to jail Seán Quinn snr, Eugene Grant QC said Mr Quinn, once Ireland’s “leading entrepreneur”, an icon and “leading light of the Celtic tiger”, had now lost his companies and wealth.

Mr Quinn (66) was “bereft and forlorn”, would be bankrupt into his 70s as a result of the actions of the bank, and was also on medication for several health problems. Counsel said Mr Quinn insisted he was not in contempt of court orders of June/July 2011 restraining stripping of assets and was appealing the judge’s findings last June that he was. The court should defer any decision on jailing Mr Quinn pending that appeal and jail must be seen as “the last resort”.

Mr Quinn was “far from being a Svengali” directing his family to strip assets and the proceedings against him were trying to deflect attention from the history of a bank that “effectively ruined” the Irish economy, Mr Grant added.

Seán Quinn snr, in an affidavit, denied he had any control over the international property group assets but said he and his family were willing to do all they could to assist the bank in recovering assets and to purge the contempt found against him and his son. He took his obligations under the court orders with the “greatest seriousness” and was “absolutely committed” to purging his contempt and “moving on with my life”. This matter had devastated his family, culminating in the jailing of his son, and if he could change the past he would, but that was “simply not within my power”.

Shane Murphy SC, for IBRC, said it was for the judge to decide whether to impose a punitive sanction. He said Ms Justice Dunne had found aspects of Mr Quinn’s evidence not credible during the contempt hearing and he gave his “imprimatur” to an asset-stripping scheme which was implemented in a “blatant, dishonest and deceitful” manner.

This was a serious contempt with the object of putting assets beyond the reach of IBRC and Mr Quinn had not purged that contempt, counsel said. Mr Quinn had also not apologised except in relation to the signing of documents related to an Indian company, he added.

Mr Murphy said an affidavit from Richard Woodhouse of IBRC outlined the bank’s serious concerns the stripping of some assets was “almost irreversible” and the bank had suffered setbacks in recent months.

The bank had lost control late last month of the most valuable asset in the international property group, the Kutzoff Tower in Moscow, to an administrator acting for or on behalf of the Quinns, Mr Woodhouse said.

A Russian court had, in “highly unusual circumstances”, allowed the removal of another administrator appointed by the bank after it gained control of the tower in late July and who had uncovered a series of large cash payments which appeared to be “bogus”.

A meeting between IBRC and Mr Quinn snr, his son, and other family members on October 25th was “wholly unproductive and unsatisfactory”, he added. Mr Quinn snr, his son Seán jnr and son-in-law Niall McPartland were in court for yesterday’s hearing.